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April is Autism Awareness Month

2 Mins read

April is Autism Awareness Month, making this the perfect time for employers to ensure their workplace is autism-friendly.

New data reveals that people with autism often struggle to progress in their careers, while others are unable to find long-term employment. It is being called ‘a crisis of unemployment among autistic adults.’

“More people than ever are being diagnosed with autism or falling on the autism spectrum,” says Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA. “Meanwhile, over 80 percent of people with autism struggle to find employment. It’s clear that employers are going to have to find a way to bridge this gap and make their workplaces more autism-friendly if they want to thrive.”

Here, Wilson outlines steps that companies should take to make their workplaces ASD-friendly:

  1. Be flexible with hybrid or remote workers. “While many of us stay in touch with our remote workers via Zoom, many autistic people say that video conferencing can be unduly stressful for them,” says Wilson. “Understanding social cues while on a video platform can be difficult even for neurotypical folks, and so it’s understandable that a large Zoom meeting can be too distracting or overwhelming for people with autism. You might allow people to keep their cameras off, or you might have smaller breakout Zoom rooms to help take pressure off everyone.”
  2. Make small changes to the office environment. “Switching out bright, grating fluorescent lights and opting for energy-friendly, warm LED lights can go a long way in helping individuals with ASD or SPD. Similarly, loud or disruptive music played over the speakers can be silenced, or replaced by instrumental music.”
  3. Have a ‘quiet’ space. “A designated quiet place where employees can retreat during the day can do wonders for mental health, especially for those with developmental disorders. Make the room dark and quiet, and have a sign-in sheet that will allow employees to use the room for short breaks. This safe place will be an invaluable refuge for those with ASD and other conditions.”
  4. Be careful when changing the company routine. “If you know that one of your employees has ASD, be aware that changes in their daily life can be very upsetting to them. Something as simple as moving their desk an inch to the right, or asking them to change their lunch break can be overwhelming. To that end, give your employee plenty of warning time before making any big changes. This will help to ensure workflow continues without disruption or undue upset.”
  5. Troubleshoot solutions with your employee. “Every individual with ASD has differing needs and concerns. Talk to your employee about how you can make their work life more comfortable and productive. Perhaps they would work better if they could wear earplugs, or if the bright overhead light was turned down.”
  6. Educate your employees. “It is important that people understand that jokes or rude comments will not be tolerated and that such behavior will be viewed as discrimination. Instead, encourage inclusivity—while honoring your employee’s privacy, of course, as they may not want their diagnosis made public.”

Autism stock image by /ESB ProfessionalShutterstock

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